Sky Harbor Airport: A Gateway to the World

By J.J. LaBarber
March 9, 2012

More than 100,000 passengers (roughly equivalent to the population of Berkeley, Calif.) arrive at or depart from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport via the facility’s three runways on a daily basis—heading to or coming from Europe to the east, Canada to the north, Mexico to the south, the Pacific area to the west and all points in between. That’s nearly 40 million per year. Each day, there are more than 1,200 take-offs and landings, including commercial, cargo, general aviation and military flights—adding up to more than 400,000 flights per year. And, despite an unstable global aviation market, Sky Harbor is continuing to show sustained passenger and cargo growth.

“This is the twelfth straight month of increased passenger activity at Sky Harbor,” said Airport Director Danny Murphy early last October. “In these incredibly volatile times, we’ve continued to grow.”

At that time, the airport released its monthly numbers and showed almost a 9 percent growth in passengers for August 2011, a particularly active month for the Phoenix airport. This leap paralleled July’s jump of 9.2 percent more passengers and June’s increase of 6.3 percent more passengers. Between January and August of 2011, Sky Harbor welcomed 27 million passengers, an increase of 6.1 percent relative to the same period in 2010.

It’s not generally known, but the Phoenix airport system is the largest economic engine in the state of Arizona. As a major component of the metropolitan Phoenix economy, the system creates jobs, income and revenues both on and off the airport. In 2007, for example, the system’s total economic impact was $33 billion. It supported 305,136 jobs in Arizona, with a payroll of $11.9 billion.

Sky Harbor is also a source of employment and payroll for airline employees, food service, security and air traffic control personnel. Currently, more than 33,500 people are employed at the airport, generating an annual payroll of $1.7 billion.

An interesting factor: No local taxpayer dollars are utilized for the airport’s administration. Revenue is primarily generated through terminal rentals and fees, aircraft landing fees, retail sales, parking and federal/state grants.

SOME NOTABLE SKY HARBOR FACTS: 17 commercial airlines serve the airport, including AeroMexico, Air Canada, British Airways, Continental, American, Delta and US Airways. It is one of the 10 busiest airports in the United States.

The airport services approximately 85 domestic and 17 international cities with daily flights, including: Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Calgary, Cancun, London, Mexico City, Toronto and Vancouver. Many of the flights are nonstop.

Direct and connecting service is available to and from almost anywhere in the world. There are also a number of international cities with nonstop service one or more times per week.

The airport is intense in its desire to be a good neighbor to those living close by. It has provided sound mitigation services to more than 1,700 residences in adjacent neighborhoods in Phoenix and Tempe and offers similar services to nearby churches, schools and community centers.

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